Has your business stagnated? Sometimes, it seems like there’s nothing you can do to change your fortunes for the better. We all struggle at times. More often than not, there is something you can do. Getting back to basics and rediscovering your entrepreneurial roots could be just what the doctor ordered.
“To improve is to change. To perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill (by way of Netflix’s House of Cards)
Or maybe your business is in a great place, but you realize that to remain competitive, your business needs to keep adapting. Here are 5 ways to revitalize your small town business.
5 Ways to Revitalize your Small Town Business
Make your business more community-oriented.
This can never really go wrong, but can be particularly meaningful in a tight-knit community. It’s nice to say, but how does one do this exactly? The key is to be present. Know what is going on in your town and get involved. When there’s a tailgating event before the homecoming game on a crisp fall afternoon, be there. When there’s a music festival and picnic in the park, be there. Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Whether “present” means volunteering, setting up a booth, or just being the life of the party will be determined by the situation. Mixing it up with your neighbors is imperative in a small town setting. Notice how none of these things have anything to do with business per se? And yet, the more people see you or your work around town, the stronger your relationship becomes.
Re-emphasize customer service.
You may not be able to please everybody, but it shouldn’t be difficult to please 99% of them. With money potentially hanging in the balance, one often has to remind himself that both parties are human beings. The customer doesn’t have anything to lose by testing your dedication to service, but as a business, you do. This is not to say a business should fear its customers, but that the business should engage with customers on a personal level while adhering to the “Golden Rule.”
Customer service doesn’t only mean responding appropriately when a customer wants to return something. It has evolved to an overall sense of consistency, transparency, and a commitment to doing what’s right. Of course, it is important to respond quickly to the usual customer complaints as well. In cases where the customer is doing their part by treating you as a genuine human being, doing right by them will win their loyalty, and customer loyalty is always a worthy investment.
Refine the customer experience.
Get to know your customers. For all the reasons stated above, nurturing your relationship with customers is very important. This goes beyond good customer service; in a small town, this can be a make-or-break factor. As mentioned above, it’s all about treating people like human beings and getting them to see you as one too. Engage with them. Entertain them. Treat them. If you have an online or social following, go out of your way to be entertaining or offer a promotion as thanks for their attention. If you have a store, and it’s cold outside, offer a cup of coffee or hot cocoa to those who braved the elements to visit you. It’s not about breaking the bank, just a show of appreciation to solidify the customer base you have. If your business is in need of revitalizing, losing the customers you have won’t help you gain new ones.
Rein yourself in appropriately.
I realize that the last paragraph tells you to appreciate your customers (a.k.a. spend money on them); however, this should always be done with discretion. There is a difference. If your problem is that people simply aren’t buying your goods and services as often as they used to, then you need to know when to tighten the purse strings. Say you sell luxury handmade fashions and, as is often the case in a recession, the folks around town need to trim a bit of luxury from their spending. Your model may no longer be viable, and you may need to emphasize another part of your business that is still working.
Sometimes this means closing up shop and selling out of your home office or switching to a delivery-based model to save on rental costs. Sometimes this just means purging your inventory of the items that aren’t selling. Remember that letting go of something that isn’t working makes room for something fresh — and possibly much healthier — for your business. Whatever the case, be sure to focus your resources on goods and services that match the needs of your shoppers, and (hopefully) keep you on-brand.
As most things are, business is cyclical. When business hits a rough patch, it will pay to learn thriftiness, and perhaps even reevaluate your business model. Whatever you do, don’t despair — positivity will be needed to turn things around.
What, in your opinion, are some of the causes of tough times for a business? Let us know in the comments below!